Dry mouth could lead to dental distress
Submitted by Edilia Glenski, DMD, FAGD, owner of Definitive Dental Care
Dry mouth is one of the many side effects of some medications, but it can also be the result of a medical condition. People with auto-immune diseases often experience symptoms of dry mouth.
There are two types of salivary glands – one type makes a thick secretion (mucin) while another makes a more runny secretion (serous).
Saliva in adequate quantities is vitally necessary. It is used during the first stage of digestion, and it is also responsible for protecting the teeth from bacteria, viruses and fungi. If the salivary glands do not maintain enough moisture in your mouth, bacteria cannot be washed away from the surface of the teeth. The bacteria then make a sticky glue that allows them to attach securely to the teeth where they proceed to pour acid on the tooth and dissolve the enamel away.
This damage can occur anywhere on the tooth, but is most commonly seen at the gumline. Damage can occur in a short few weeks. If left untreated, the entire tooth can be eroded away and the nerve in the tooth can be killed.
There have been patients who suffered serious deterioration in just six months after starting to take a new medication. Previously decay-free patients suddenly require several fillings and sometimes even root canals.
How do you prevent this problem? There are many products on the market designed to restore the moisture in the mouth and help to prevent bacterial infections of the teeth and gums. The most effective products contain moisture as well as xylitol.
Xylitol is a non-nutritive sweetener that has the added benefit of interfering with the “glue” that bacteria produce for anchoring themselves to the teeth. If the bacteria can’t attach to the tooth, they can’t dump the acid that causes tooth decay.
As usual, maintaining your regular hygiene appointments will help your dentist to spot the symptoms of dry mouth before it is too late, but you don’t have to wait for the dentist to address this problem.
If you are concerned about the possibility of dry mouth, go to your nearest health food store and look for gum sweetened with xylitol and a product called Rain. Both are easy to find, inexpensive and easy to use. Rain comes in a spray bottle and can be sprayed in the mouth as often as needed. The xylitol gum stimulates the saliva glands and keeps those pesky bacteria from adhering to your teeth. Bad for the bacteria, but good for you.
Dry mouth can be devastating to your teeth. Luckily the solution is simple, easy to use and inexpensive.
Glenski is owner of Definitive Dental Care in Palm Harbor, Fla. She has been practicing general and cosmetic dentistry since 1980 and is one of only eight dentists in the state of Florida accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Glenski is also a professor of anatomy and physiology at St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Fla.
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